October 16, 2011

OHNY Weekend, Part I: A Lobby and Two Libraries in Midtown

The 9th Annual OHNY (openhousenewyork) event took place this weekend, opening up rarely seen New York interiors to the public. Designed to promote architecture and design excellence, OHNY featured many venues and special programs at sites around the five boroughs, and as always, even seasoned New Yorkers found more surprises hidden within their city. Many places were open by advanced reservation only, with reservation limits filling up quickly, but several fascinating places were open for walk-ins during certain hours on either Saturday or Sunday or both.

Making the rounds for the open houses proves something of a challenge, like a marathon for architecture enthusiasts. Nevertheless, I managed to take in a few of the sites in three separate parts of Manhattan this weekend - Midtown, the Upper West Side, and the Financial District. Walking between the OHNY sites, I occasionally stopped to study other interesting buildings and street views along the way. I'll discuss a few of the Midtown sites here and save the other neighborhoods for subsequent posts.

• 505 Fifth Avenue
Architect: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF)

505 Fifth Avenue, entrance lobby
505 Fifth Avenue, light installation by James Turrell


The first stop of my OHNY weekend took me to the lobby of 505 Fifth Avenue to see the light installation by artist James Turrell (2005). The owner of the building commissioned Turrell to work with the architect from KPF to design this fascinating lobby. Stepping out of the frenzied world of 42nd Street and into the lobby seems both an extension of the neon world outside the doors but also a retreat from it.

505 Fifth Avenue, entrance lobby
505 Fifth Avenue, light installation by James Turrell


The light sculpture changes throughout the day. The work has a kinship with the paintings of Mark Rothko, and indeed the architect said that Rothko was an inspiration for this design. The pink, green, and aqua colored lights work in tandem with the careful chosen values of the wall paints. Turrell also designed the building's exterior lighting.

• General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St
Architect: Lamb and Rich. 1890

General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St.
General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St.

Who knew what a fanciful library one would find inside these doors? The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, established in 1820, acquired this building in 1899. Its Library features 110,000 volumes on the "useful arts," meaning the work of urban craftsmanship, as well as a fascinating lock museum, the John H. Mossman Collection, on the upper balcony level. Between the skylight and the faux marble columns, surely any serious work in steampunk aesthetics must begin here.

General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, Library
General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St.

General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, Library
General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, 20 W 44th St.

For more information, see the website at www.generalsociety.org.

Bonus sites: This block of W. 44th Street is particularly clubby. See also the Harvard Club at 27 W. 44th Street, the Penn Club at 30 W. 44th St, and the New York Yacht Club at 37 W. 44th St. The wonderful Algonquin Hotel is at 59 W. 44th St.

• Horticultural Society of New York, 148 W 37th St

Horticultural Society, 148 W. 37th St.
Horticultural Society of New York, 148 W 37th St


An entirely different sort of library may be found thirteen floors up in a building on quiet W. 37th St. The contemporary and airy design (2006) by Marpillero Pollak Architects gives the Horticultural Society the needed light and air for its subject. The society is home to the largest collection of gardening and horticultural books in Manhattan, and as expected, several well-tended plants. Of particular interest is the current exhibit on display, the Fourteenth Annual International Juried Botanical Art Exhibition 2011. Botanical art is a demanding one, with a fine lineage in art history, and the society's headquarters makes a fine venue for the work.

Horticultural Society, 148 W. 37th St.
Botanical art at the Horticultural Society of New York, 148 W 37th St


Information about the society and its events and workshops may be found
at www.thehort.org.

Official Website of OHNY


View WOTBA OHNY Weekend in a larger map

Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from October 15, 2011.
Read more about OHNY weekend - Parts II (Upper West Side) and III (Financial District).

2 comments:

John de Guzman said...

Love it, Teri! What a fun weekend!

Teri Tynes said...

Thanks, John. We'll catch up with one another eventually. Who knows where or when? Probably when we least expect it.